Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year’s Eve Celebration

Friday, December 31, 2004, 6PM – Midnight(+)
with Taiun Michael Elliston, Abbot

You are invited to celebrate the New Year at the Atlanta Soto Zen Center!

This special new year’s eve service includes cleaning, sitting, soba noodles and broth, recitation of "Dogen's 108 Gates to Enlightenment", and the traditional 108 bells counting down to midnight.

Shortly after midnight we will wrap up our New Year's eve observances with a small warming fire outback. Please bring sake, champagne, non-alcoholic beverages or snacks to share.

Regular Saturday morning services will be held January 1 starting at 7:30am.

Sunday morning services January 2 will include a Fusatsu (precepts renewal) ceremony.

The Smoke Clears

. . . and I am out of it. The football pool that is. After 14 games, I only picked five correctly, and even if I win every game from here on it, I can't pass my brother. I would wind up in a four-way tie for second place with the Witch Doctor, the BiL, and my sister, although there is no second-place consolation prize.

All four of my teams lost yesterday after B.C. upset North Carolina, Navy upset New Mexico, Texas Tech beat fourth-ranked California in one of the biggest upsets of the season, and Northern Illinois beat Troy (who are those guys?). It probably didn't help that the starting quarterbacks on most of my teams showed up for their games looking like this:

There's four games today, but I don't care now. I can go out and enjoy my New Year's Eve without worrying about the Boise State-Louisville point spread. On New Year's Day and beyond, I can cheer for my teams without anxiety. Years of being a Red Sox fan has taught me how to find solice in losing. That's something I hope not to lose now that the Sox are the defending World Series Champions!

The blog keeps getting hits from Europe and eastern Asia about the tsunami and the aftereffects of the earthquake. My most deepfelt sympathy and compassion goes out to all the victims, their loved ones, their families and those who care about them.

From: Paige
Sent: Friday, December 31, 2004 3:59 AM
Subject: Blog Quote


I like what you did for the link/content- very intriguing and a good use of representation and images. I'm happy to know that someone out there was able to understand what I was saying!
Thanks for the link too!

Have a happy new year,


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Artie Shaw

Artie Shaw, the jazz clarinetist and big-band leader who successfully challenged Benny Goodman's reign as the King of Swing with his recordings of "Begin the Beguine," "Lady Be Good" and "Star Dust" in the late 1930's, died yesterday at his home of natural causes. He was 94.

Upon learning of his death, most people expressed surprise that he had still been alive.

Artie Shaw's virtuosity on his instrument, his groups' highly original arrangements and his explosively romantic showmanship made him one of the most danced-to bandleaders of swing and one of the most listened-to artists of jazz. He quit performing in 1954 , but the many re-releases of his discs and his informed but often sardonic comments on music and many other subjects kept him in the public ear.

Mr. Shaw impressed and amazed clarinetists of all schools. Barney Bigard, the New Orleans clarinetist who was Duke Ellington's soloist for 14 years, said he considered Mr. Shaw the greatest clarinetist ever. Phil Woods, a saxophonist of the bebop era, took Charlie Parker as his inspiration on saxophone, but he modeled his clarinet playing on Mr. Shaw's. John Carter, a leading post-bop clarinetist, said he took up the instrument because of Mr. Shaw. And Franklin Cohen, the principal clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra, said he found his playing unbelievable.

In the 1930s, he formed a band with the same instrumentation as Goodman's, promising it would be "the loudest band in the whole damn world." As the band developed during a long run at the Roseland-State Ballroom in Boston, the original concept changed to a concentration on smoothly swinging treatments of the music of Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Vincent Youmans and others.

Mr. Shaw, however, was not prepared to put up with the demands of his fans, the bobby-soxers who mobbed him and tore his clothes, and whom he called morons. In December 1939, the tension finally made him walk off the bandstand at the Cafe Rouge of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City and disappear.

"I wanted to resign from the planet, not just music," he said later. "It stopped being fun with success. Money got in the way. Everybody got greedy, including me. Fear set in. I got miserable when I became a commodity."

He disappeared to what was then a little-known village in Mexico - Acapulco - where he was ignored for three months until he rescued a woman from drowning and reporters found out who he was. Then he returned home to Hollywood.

In December 1941, Mr. Shaw flew to California and married Elizabeth Kern, the daughter of Jerome Kern, before enlisting in the Navy. He was ordered to form a band, and when he heard the band members he had been given, he went AWOL ("tacitly," as he said) in order to see the Secretary of the Navy. Mr. Shaw left the meeting with permission to enlist a band to be taken to the Pacific. He recruited some of the best musicians he had worked with in civilian life. The band played up and down the Pacific, on tiny islands and in jungles. It played so relentlessly that in 1943 it was sent to New Zealand to rest, and a year later it was dissolved. Mr. Shaw received a medical discharge.

In March 1954, after a playing with a small group at the Embers in New York, he announced his retirement at age 43. He never performed again.

Among other things, he became a lecturer on the college circuit offering a choice of subjects, including "Consecutive Monogamy and Ideal Divorce," in which he presented himself as "the ex-husband of love goddesses and an authority on divorce."

His source material for his lectures came from his experience with eight wives, who included, in addition to Miss Kern, three movie stars (Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Evelyn Keyes) and an author (Kathleen Winsor, who wrote the 1940's best-seller "Forever Amber").

"People ask what those women saw in me," Mr. Shaw said. "Let's face it, I wasn't a bad-looking stud. But that's not it. It's the music; it's standing up there under the lights. A lot of women just flip; looks have nothing to do with it. You call Mick Jagger good-looking?"

All his marriages ended in divorce.

- John S. Wilson (former jazz critic for The New York Times, Mr. Wilson died in 2002)

Image Is Everything

There's been quite a difference in the search engine hits this site has been getting, as evidenced by these results from the past 24 hours:

1. buddhism - sri lanka earthquake, Yahoo, from the Pacific Rim (Russian Federation Zone 5)

2. burma tectonic plate, Yahoo, from the U.S. Central Time Zone

3. buddhism tsunami, Yahoo, from Hong Kong

4. phuket tsunami, Technorati, from Central European Time Zone

5. hindu worshipers hit tsunamis, MSN, from the U.S. Central Time Zone

6. top ten world's deadliest tsunamis, Yahoo, from the U.S. West Coast

7. deadliest tsunamis last 100 years, MSN, from the U.S. East Coast

8. graph of deadliest tsunamis, Yahoo, from the U.S. East Coast

9. india/burma geological plate, MSN, from the Rocky Mountain States

10. india plate burma plate,, from the U.S. West Coast

11. tsunami,aceh,picture, Yahoo, from the Pacific Rim (West Australian Standard Time)

12. buddhism tsunami and buddha, tsunami, Yahoo, from the China Coast (Russian Federation Zone 7)

13. indonesian earthquake msn, MSN, from the Alaska-Hawaii Time Zone

14. india burma tectonic plate, OptusNet Search, from Australia

15. tsunami picture sumatra, Yahoo, from the Pacific Rim (West Australian Time Zone)

16. missing tsunami, HotBot, from Germany

Sure, there was still one more Michael Crichton hit, a Shokai search, and, interestingly, an AltaVista search from Germany for the words Messner, Nanga and DNA which referred all the way back to my June 26 blog entry. But what I see today is that many people are searching the Internet for news, information, and spiritual guidance on the disaster in Asia. And if 16 of those searches led to this crappy little insignificant blog, I can only imagine how much traffic is out there at the useful sites.

So, it seems that in addition to Americans, there are Chinese, Australians and Europeans who have visited this site looking for information or opinion about the tragedy. And what do they find here? Pictures of Petra Nemcova! I hope that my readers realize that I did not single her out as the lone victim to discuss because my compassion is so limited that I only care about the hot supermodel victim, or that my sympathy does not extend to the now 120,000 Asians who have perished so far. I meant it more as an ironic statement about the American news coverage of the event, which has focused more on the tourists in Phuket and the European and American victims than on the vastly greater number of Asian victims.

In her blog "C'est What?," Paige points out that there is no great set of images to link us to this event, and quotes Guy-Ernest Debord: "In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation." She says, "The tsunami has become another 'Us' versus 'Them,' in which Western media and society doesn't care what happens to the 'others.'" In other words, the disaster is just plain bad television, and we've become so infatuated by the media that if it can't be represented in a single iconic image or a 10-second film clip, we get bored, and click the remote to the next channel.

This is Paige:

Blogger extraordinaire Tony Pierce, author of How To Blog, uses provocative pictures to lure horny guys to his site and to keep them coming back. "Men are easily distracted, visual creatures," he says, "therefore you need to make your page visually appealing to them. Especially if your content is so-so." And as I said, the single iconic image is more important in today's media than the content . . .

Things didn't work out very well for my Mom in the football pool last night - both of her teams lost, and she is now alone in last place, trailing the Witch Doctor by five games. I trail by three, but I'm hoping to pick up a game on the Witch Doctor with a North Carolina win over BC. Also, I'm the only one who picked Troy State over Northern Illinois (who are these guys?), so a win there would give me one-up on everybody else. Since there's four games today, a lot of smoke will have cleared by the end of the day.

Sent: Wed 12/29/2004 5:33 AM
Subject: RE: Quake Disaster - How you can help

Dear Colleaques,

Thank you to all who e-mailed to express their concern. All Singapore & Malaysia staff and their families are fine although we have not been able to contact a staff currently on leave.

Malaysia was less impacted by the tsunami compared to Thailand and Indonesia while Singapore was not affected at all. Nevertheless, we're all shocked by the scale of the tragedy and the locations affected - these are places that we would likely vacation at with our families.

A number of relief and humanitarian agencies such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent are available in Singapore and Malaysia to receive donations as well. At the moment, at least in Singapore, the agencies have only asked for donations.

Take care,
Juliana D.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Petra Nemcova

Supermodel Petra Nemcova was injured and her boyfriend, British photographer Simon Atlee, was missing after the pair were caught up in the Asian tsunami disaster. Nemcova and Atlee had been vacationing in the resort of Phuket when the waves swept over them on Sunday. Nemcova, who appeared on the cover of 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, clung to a tree for eight hours as the water swirled around her. She suffered a shattered hip and internal injuries. British authorities have no word on the status of Atlee.

Last night was somewhat interesting in the football pool (note: the pool was interesting - the games continue to be unremittingly dull). After the Iowa State upset of Miami (Ohio), the BiL briefly moved into a first-place tie with the Witch Doctor, and my brother moved ahead of my Mom and I, leaving us tied for last place. However, both my brother and the BiL chose Notre Fucking Dame over Oregon State, the only ones to do so, so they quickly lost their good fortune when the Irish lost 38-21. So the Witch Doctor's still in the lead, with my sister and the BiL behind by one game, and my brother, my mother and I all three back.

Tonight's games are probably only interesting to my Mom. Everyone but her picked Colorado over UTEP, so she might be able to pick up one game there. Next, she and the BiL were the only ones to choose OK State over Ohio State, so if things go their way, Mom could catch up with my sister and the BiL can once again tie the Witch Doctor.

Alternately, Mom might find herself all alone in last place, trailing my brother and I by two games.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A comment Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made during a Christmas Eve address to U.S. troops in Baghdad has sparked new conspiracy theories about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In the speech, Rumsfeld made a passing reference to United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to stop al Qaeda hijackers.

But in his remarks, Rumsfeld referred to the "the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania."

A Pentagon spokesman insisted that Rumsfeld simply misspoke, but Internet conspiracy theorists seized on the reference to the plane having been shot down.

Was it a slip of the tongue? Was it an error? Or was it the truth, finally being dropped on the public more than three years after the tragedy?

Some people remain skeptical of U.S. government statements that, despite a presidential authorization, no planes were shot down September 11, and rumors still circulate that a U.S. military plane shot the airliner down over Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

A Pentagon spokesman insists Rumsfeld has not changed his opinion that the plane crashed as the result of an onboard struggle between passengers and terrorists.

The independent panel charged with investigating the terrorist attacks concluded that the hijackers intentionally crashed Flight 93, apparently because they feared the passengers would overwhelm them.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Welter & Waste

". . . the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters . . ."

Survivors of the gigantic undersea earthquake on Sunday that swallowed coastlines from Indonesia to Africa - which officials now describe as one of the worst natural disasters in recent history - recovered bodies today, hurriedly arranged for mass burials and searched for tens of thousands of the missing in countries thousands of miles apart. The reported deaths from the disaster climbed today to more than 50,000, with some reports placing the number near 60,000. A third of the dead are said to be children. With hundreds of thousands of people stranded in the open without clean drinking water, epidemics of cholera and other waterborne diseases could take as many lives as the initial waves.

There are some interesting blogs about the disaster written by survivors here, here and here. They also provide information on relief organizations. It's kind of hard for me to add anything to what they have to say, so I won't try.

I met my friend K. for coffee this moring at Starbucks, then went to the office to answer a few emails (I know I'm on vacation, but clients are still important). The rest of the day was spent finishing the yard work I started yesterday - I took down a tree, blew the leaves off the roof, and raked/swept/blew the leaves from the back patio all the way around to the street.

I trail Witch Doctor Jim by three games in the pool now, along with my Mom and my brother. For the next four games (tonight and tomorrow), our picks are the same, so I can't make up any ground on the Witch Doctor until North Carolina beats BC (by more than three points) on Thursday. The BiL and my sister trail the Witch Doctor by 1 and 2 games, respectively. A Miami (Ohio) win over Iowa State (by >3) would get me one game closer to them, and an Oregon State win over Notre Fucking Dame (by 3 1/2) would tie me with the BiL. So if everything goes my way tonight, my Mom and I will be in a three-way tie for second place with the BiL, and my poor brother will be left all alone in last place with only two wins to his name.

Recent Web Searches

Christmas Day, soyu matsuoka, from AOL on the East Coast

Christmas Day, Chattanooga zazen, from Comcast on the East Coast

December 26, Arden's Garden, from Dogpile on the East Coast

December 27, paper that dissolves in water, on MSN in the Central Time Zone

December 28, michael creighton + State Of Fear, a Google search from the East Coast (fourth reference on page)

December 28, shokai, another Google on the East Coast (seventh reference, Otsuka Corporation of Japan's home page was the first reference).

In the Beginning, God Did Not Create the Heavens and the Earth.

A Translation With Commentary.
By Robert Alter. 1,064 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $39.95.

Reviewed by Edward Rothstein
The New York Times: December 29, 2004

The King James Bible puts it too neatly: "In the beginning" could mean that the creation was God's first act, or that the creation was itself the beginning, but wasn't something there before? The sentence also reads like a topic sentence, bluntly introducing that account that follows.

Things are actually far more mysterious and inchoate, as Robert Alter keeps reminding us in his astonishing translation of the original Hebrew text of the first five books of the Bible. There are so many accretions of meaning and assumption layered over the Biblical text, so many commentaries, so many doctrines; even the English language has been influenced by the glories (and errors) of the 17th-century King James translation.

Return, then, to the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch - the Torah - where pronouns are often ambiguous, words are compacted with multiple meanings and clauses can begin to make sense not in the ordinary sequence of reading but only in the course of doubling back and rereading. Here is how Mr. Alter renders that first sentence of Genesis:

"When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters, God said, 'Let there be light.' "

That sentence unsettles. The creation is not a completed act, but part of a process. The act of speaking is the focus of attention, coming after an almost breathless catalog of elements in a world "without form and void" (as the King James version puts it), in which "welter and waste and darkness over the deep" and "God's breath" are components of a primordial earth.

It isn't likely that this rendering will soon replace the old. It doesn't easily scan. But it is so weirdly convincing, and so evocative of matters beyond conventional understanding, that it anticipates not just the story of Creation but the epic enterprise of translation and commentary into which Mr. Alter leads us.

Monday, December 27, 2004


According to today's The New York Times, the death toll in Asia from Sunday's tsunamis now exceeds 19,000, with untold numbers still missing in six countries.

The world's most powerful earthquake in 40 years erupted underwater off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday and sent walls of water barreling thousands of miles. The earthquake, which measured 9.0 in magnitude, set off tsunamis that built up speeds of as much as 500 miles per hour, then crashed into coastal areas of Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives and Malaysia as 40-foot-high walls of water, devouring everything and everyone in their paths.

It took several hours in some cases on Sunday for the waves to build and reach their targets after the earthquake struck. But none of the most affected countries had warning systems in place to detect the coming onslaught and alert their citizens to move away from the coastline.

The tsunamis were generated by underwater seismic disturbances, in this case the interface of the India and Burma tectonic plates. Seismologists with the U.S. Geological Survey said the ocean west of Sumatra and the island chains to its north was a hot zone for earthquakes because of a nonstop collision occurring there between the India plate, beneath the Indian Ocean seabed, and the Burma plate under the islands and that part of the continent.

The India plate is moving at about two inches a year to the northeast, creating pressure that releases, sporadically, in seismic activity. But this was an especially devastating earthquake, the fourth most powerful in 100 years.

Television images showed bodies floating in muddied waters. Cars went out to sea; boats came onto land. Snorkelers were dragged onto the beach, and sunbathers out to sea. Aid agencies were rushing staff and equipment to the region, warning that rotting bodies were threatening health and water supplies.

Indonesia reported nearly 4,500 dead, most in the Banda Aceh area of Sumatra, a region that has been the site of a continuing civil war. In Sri Lanka, at least 6,000 were dead. In India, an estimated 2,300 died, with at least 1,700 confirmed dead in Tamil Nadu, the southern state that is home to the coastal city of Madras.

The death toll is expected to climb. Many areas from the atolls of the Maldives to the Nicobar Islands of India were simply out of reach, with communication lines snapped. Thousands more people in those places are feared marooned or dead.

Below is a list of the deadliest quakes of the past 100 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In some cases, death tolls include those killed in ensuing fires and collapses.

1976 China, Tangshan - 255,000 dead (7.5 magnitude)

1927 China, near Xining - 200,000 (magnitude unknown)

1920 China, Gansu - 200,000 (8.6)

1923 Japan, Kwanto - 143,000 (magnitude unknown)

1948 Turkmenistan - 110,000 (7.3)

1908 Italy, Messina - up to 100,000 (7.2)

1932 China, Gansu - 70,000 (7.6)

1970 Peru - 66,000 (7.9)

1935 Pakistan, Quetta - up to 60,000 (7.5)

1990 Iran, Gilan - 35,000 (7.7)

2003 Iran, Bam - 31,000 (6.8)

With all of this suffering, it is hard to blog about my own little pissant problems. It's hard to blog about football. There're two games on today (the football pool continues). The first, Virginia v. Fresno State in the MPC Computers Bowl (2:00 p.m.), is a non-event, since everyone in the pool picked Virginia. We'll all go up or down one game together, but no one will pick up a game on anybody else. The second game, Toledo v. UConn in the Motor City Bowl (5:30 p.m.), should be more interesting. I can pick up a game on the Witch Doctor and the BiL with a Toledo victory (by 3 1/2 points), but I will miss at least the second half of the game as tonight is my Monday night opening at the Zen Center.

But meantime, I have yardwork to do - leaves to be blown, branches to be cut down, and ivy to be trimmed.

The Buddha in the World

By Pankaj Mishra
Illustrated. 422 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $25

Reviewed by William Grimes
The New York Times: December 27, 2004

In an Age of Strife, What Would Buddha Do?

The Indian novelist and journalist Pankaj Mishra had two ideas when he came up with the subtitle "The Buddha in the World." Always, in his rambling meditations on the history and meaning of Buddhism, he struggles to place the Buddha in historical context. He evokes the physical settings, socioeconomic changes and political tensions of Northern India six centuries before Jesus, the world in which Siddhartha Gautama first spread his radical message.

At the same time, his own spiritual quest pulls the story into the present, as he sorts out his conflicted feelings about Buddhism and its relevance to the world of terrorist bombings, multinational corporations and seething third-world discontent.

Mr. Mishra, the author of a highly praised novel, "The Romantics," has written an odd, uneasy book. It began life as a projected historical novel about the Buddha. Mr. Mishra, who grew up in northern India, traveled from one Buddhist site to another, reading widely and deeply along the way, then returned to Mashobra, a village in the Himalayas, where he sorted out his thoughts and reflected. These journeys, and the fruits of Mr. Mishra's study, have been stored and reworked into a highly personal history, not too remote in spirit from works like "The Education of Henry Adams."

It's easy to see why Mr. Mishra was attracted to Buddhism. Nietzsche, analyzing Buddhism's appeal to its early audience, spoke of "races grown kindly, gentle, overintellectual who feel pain too easily." The description fits Mr. Mishra, and his own self-description rounds out the portrait. Part of a Hindu family clinging tenuously to the middle class, he grew up in an India obsessed with emulating the West and transforming itself into a modern society.

Like so many others, his father abandoned his native his village for the city. But by the late 1970's and 80's, Mr. Mishra writes, "these aspirations had lost some of their force." The British administrative system, in Indian hands, had deteriorated, and Mr. Mishra's university in Allahabad, once known as the Oxford of the east, was now a sorry sight: "It had become a battlefield for rival caste groups, a setting for the primordial struggles for food and shelter, of violence and terror."

Mr. Mishra intended to study commerce, if only to avoid medicine and engineering, the standard avenues to success for Indians of his class. But he was besotted with Nietzsche and the French existentialists. He worshiped the great European novelists like Flaubert, Tolstoy and Proust, writers who dramatized, as he saw it, "the fate of the individual in society." (It's telling that he found his way to "Questions of King Menander," an early Buddhist text, through a short story by Borges.) Diffidently, he declared himself a writer, although he had no idea what, exactly, he would write about. Like one of the "superfluous men" in the novels of Turgenev, another of his models, he had been equipped with a sensitive nature and a passion for social justice, but modern India offered him no place. Looking around him, he saw misery, poverty, failed social institutions and a rising tides of political violence. In short, like the Buddha, he looked out on the world and saw suffering.

Mr. Mishra offers a highly attractive introduction to the basic thinking behind Buddhism. He stresses what he sees as its practicality and workability. The Buddha identified a problem, the restless, ego-driven striving that inevitably leads to frustration and unhappiness. He then developed a set of introspective techniques designed to make the suffering individual more self-aware, and through this self-awareness to move systematically beyond the self and its vain strivings toward a state he called nirvana.

Mr. Mishra's Buddha is a practical philosopher, engaged in the here and now. "It was the Buddha's achievement," he writes, "as it was that of Socrates, to detach wisdom from its basis in fixed and often esoteric forms of knowledge and opinion and offer it as a moral and spiritual project for individuals."

Mr. Mishra presents these concepts simply and clearly. He also lends them dramatic immediacy, tying them closely to specific events and places in the Buddha's life, highlighting the arguments and counterarguments that they provoked at the time. At every turn, he draws parallels between the social problems of the Buddha's era and the myriad social and political torments of our own age. Mr. Mishra paints a vivid, painful picture of the developing world, bewildered by the disruptive forces of modernity.

He remains a skeptical Buddhist, though, if he is a Buddhist at all. He admits to finding the Buddha's dialogues "long-winded and repetitious," with "little of the artistry so evident in Plato." He points out that Buddhist thinkers threw their support behind Japan's militarist government in the 1930's and supported the Sinhalese in violent civil war with the Tamils in Sri Lanka. As a political force, Buddhism comes across as, at best, benevolent but ineffectual.

In the end, it's hard to know exactly where Mr. Mishra stands as he meanders, circles back on himself and, dropping his historical inquiries, heads off to remote locales. Visiting a Zen meditation center in Northern California, where an old American friend has become a monk, he feels awkward. A prayer is recited. He finds the words incomprehensible. The rituals annoy him. "I couldn't but feel their irrelevance to the world I was growing up in," he writes. A monk circulating among the worshipers to check their prayer postures stops and regards him suspiciously, which, in a way, is how he looks at himself.

Mr. Mishra's journey of a thousand miles leads him right back to the beginning. For him, it seems, there is no end to suffering.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


A dark, dark day. Every time I open my web browser, the news is worse on The New York Times On-Line, my home page. First, 3,000 dead, then 7,000, now 10,000. And the earthquake that caused the tsunamis has gone from a preliminary 8.7 to a 9.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This was the fourth largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska earthquake.

It's ironic that this is the second year in a row that a devastating earthquake hit on the day after Christmas. Last year, 30,000 people died in an earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam.

Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for those lost, and for those griving for their lost ones. Excuse me if I don't say anything "funny" today.

The History of the Universe in Approximately 200 Words

Quantum Fluctuation. Inflation. Expansion. Particle-Antiparticle Annihilation. Deuterium and Helium Production. Matter Domination. Recombination. Blackbody Radiation. Local Contraction. Large-Scale Structure Formation. Violent Relaxation. Virialization. Galaxy Formation. Turbulent Fragmentation. Contraction. Ionization. Massive Star Formation. Deuterium Ignition. Hydrogen Fusion. Hydrogen Depletion. Core Contraction. Envelope Expansion. Helium Fusion. Carbon, Oxygen, and Silicon Fusion. Iron Production. Implosion. Supernova Explosion. Metals Injection. Star Formation. Universal Acceleration. Supernova Explosions. Star Formation. Planetesimal Accretion. Planetary Differentiation. Crust Solidification. Volatile Gas Expulsion. Water Condensation. Carbon Dioxide Solution. Water Photodissociation. Escaping Hydrogen. Ozone Production. Ultraviolet Absorption. Polymerization. Coacervate Formation. Molecular Reproduction. Protein Construction. Fermentation. Photosynthetic Unicellular Organisms! Oxidation. Mutation. Evolution. Cell Differentiation. Respiration. Sexual Reproduction. Multicellular Organisms. Evolutionary Diversification. Fossilization. Trilobite Domination. Land Exploration. Comet Collision. Dinosaur Extinction. Mammal Expansion. Homo Sapiens Manifestation. Language Acquisition. Glaciation. Innovation. Religion. Animal Domestication. Fermentation. Food Surplus Production. Inscription. Civilization! Exploration. Warring Nations. Empire Creation and Destruction. Expansion. Scientific Explanation. Colonization. Revolution. Constitution. Vaccination. Industrialization. Emancipation. Invention. Mass Production. Urbanization. Migration. World Conflagration. Suffrage Extension. Penicillin. Depression. World Conflagration. Fission Explosions. Computerization. United Nations. Space Exploration. Population Explosion. Environmental Degradation. Superpower Confrontation. Liberation. Terrorism. Lunar Excursions. Resignation. Inflation. Internet Expansion. Globalization. Reunification. Dissolution. Union. World Wide Web Creation. Composition. Terrorism. Invasion. Extrapolation?

Copyright 1996-2000 by Eric Schulman

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

What are you supposed to say? Is it "Happy Festivus" or "Merry Festivus?"

Whatever. I hope everyone's having a great day.

Got up late this morning (it's amazing to me how quickly I become nocturnal when I don't have to work for a couple of days. Sometimes I think I might have Transylvanian ancestry, if you know what I mean). When I finally did get up, I opened the presents my Mom mailed down to me.

Thanks, Mom!

Hawaii won last night, beat UAB, so now I have two wins in the football pool. But then, so does everybody else. There're no games today or tomorrow (NFL weekend), but I can pick up one game against the Witch Doctor Monday with a Toledo win over UConn, but it might be the 29th or 30th before I can catch up, or even pass him.

The Gospel According to Saint Matthew

. . . Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."

When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, in Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet "And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel."

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also."

When they heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented him with gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

I'll bet they did. Those wise men were no dummies. But who were they? Exactly where "east of Jerusalem" were they from?

My theory is they were Buddhists. Buddhism had been around for about 500 years at the time of Jesus' birth, and had spread from India all along the Silk Road. Between the second century B.C. and it's height around A.D. 150, the Kushan Empire controlled a territory that included all of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and most of Northern India, as well as parts of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Buddhism flourished under the Kushans. So there was a great Buddhist kingdom east of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus' birth.

Granted, there were other kingdoms as well. But the hallmark of Buddhism is prajna, or wisdom. So the "wise men" would most likely have come from that eastern kingdom where wisdom was practiced. It's worth noting that the Buddha's enlightenment came upon seeing the morning star as he was sitting under the bodhi tree. It is not at all far-fetched to imagine that Judeans had heard stories of men from the east who gained wisdom watching stars (the wise men "rejoiced with exceeding great joy" upon seeing the star, not necessarily upon finding the young child). I'm sure that by the time of Jesus, word of the "wisdom from the east" had reached Jerusalem. Although, as far as I know, Buddhism never got established in their area, I propose that the "wise men from the east" was how Judeans refered to Buddhist practioners from the Kushan Empire.

I read the first chapter of Matthew as an attempt to legitimize the legacy of Jesus. The first chapter contains a genealogy establishing a direct lineage from Abraham to David to Jesus. "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations (Chapter I, verse 17)." This establishes for the "children of Israel" that there is no question that Jesus was in their lineage, was one of their kind.

But how to establish legitimacy to the outside world? What better way than to get the blessing of those star-gazing wise men from the east that they had heard about? Thus, we get the second chapter of Matthew, quoted above.

It is interesting to note that the Chinese Buddhists used much the same technique to legitimize their school of Buddhism by establishing the lineage of dharma transmission. According to this lineage, Bodhidharma, the great sage who brought what was to become Chan Buddhism to China, was the 28th patriarch after the Buddha. Halfway between the Buddha and Bodhidharma was Nagaruna, the 14th patriarch. The Buddha's teachings occurred around 500 B.C. and Bodhidharma arrived in China around A.D. 500, so Nagaruna, halfway between the Buddha and Bodhidharma, must have lived around the time of Jesus.

Whether or not wise men from the Kushan Empire or elsewhere actually showed up in Bethlehem is totally irrelevant. However, the story probably resonated with the early Christians as they spread the teaching because it offered a kind of "stamp of approval" by the fabled "wise kingdom of the east."

However, I think Christ's teaching stands on its own merit, without the need for Eastern legitimacy:

"Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

"Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns: yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these
(Matthew, Chapter VI, verses 25-29)."

Friday, December 24, 2004

Down Two

Click for details:

Well, that certainly didn't work out the way I had hoped! Instead of being a game ahead of my Mother and Brother-in-Law, and leaving Witch Doctor Jim behind in a cloud of dust, both my teams lost last night, and I suddenly find myself two games back behind the Witch Doctor and one back from Mom and the BiL.

On top of that, the first game was just plain ugly to watch. Marshall was a total disaster -- dropping passes, kicking into blocks, fumbling the football. It wasn't like Cincinnati played that much better, though. Marshall just played worse.

The Wyoming-UCLA game was a little more exciting. Once it became apparent late in the game that UCLA had no interest in trying to cover the spread but just wanted to hang on to the lead, I figured I already lost the bet so I may as well start cheering for Wyoming, the underdog. And they did score an upset victory with a late touchdown. At least that game was a little more exciting.

But the issue isn't that I'm losing, it's that I'm losing to my mother, my BiL, and a goddamn witch doctor! There's still plenty of games left, but all I can do now is hope for a Hawaii victory (by 3 1/2 points) over Alabama - Birmingham tonight, so that my mother doesn't start to run up a big lead on me, too.

So here it is, Christmas Eve, and all I can hope for is that my friggin' mother chokes on her UAB pick in the pool.

I love this game!

What's worse, though, is that I know my Mom reads this blog. According to blogger extraordinare Tony Pierce, author of the book How to Blog, you're never supposed to tell your mother that you maintain a blog. Tony even put an excerpt from his book up on his site, a Top 10 list of important things to know about blogging, and he stressed not to tell your family or your co-workers that you have a blog. Cuts down on the candidness, if you know what I mean. However, sad as it is to say, there's really nothing going on in my life that I have to hide from anybody. And as far as offending, the trash-talking in this blog is nothing compared to what's probably going on right now at the family holiday dinner up in Maine.

Besides, according to Raymi, another extraordinary blogger, Jamie's Mom reads his blog (so, there, I dropped three names in one blog entry and even plugged Tony Pierce's book).

The only search engine hit today was by an Italian who Googled the name "Alexive." As you may recall, Alexive Berchev was the winner of the Man of the Year contest (I previously had a couple of hits for third-place contestant Sean O'Flanders). The interesting thing was to see how many other blogs and web sites carried the same "Man of the Year" piece that I lifted from an email - I counted eight from the Italian's "Alexive" search.

But as I said, it's Christmas Eve, so happy holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Jump Day

Busiest Days at Airport Will be Thursday, Monday

By The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you plan to fly during the next two weeks, brace yourself for lines, delays and frazzled nerves. Most days during the next two weeks will be busier than the year-to-date daily average of 228,000.

Hartsfield-Jackson officials expect a bigger crowd Thursday than any other day this year, eclipsing the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which often ranks at the top.

The crowded conditions were complicated by bad weather early this morning. Low clouds caused delays averaging just over 30 minutes for some arriving flights, and problems elsewhere were forcing some departure delays.

Airport officials reported both the north and south economy parking lots were full at 9 a.m.

A total of 287,615 people are expected to pass through the Atlanta airport Thursday. The second-busiest day during the upcoming holiday is expected to be Monday, with 278,317 passengers. Overall, the airport expects traffic to be up 3 percent from the same period in 2003, keeping the airport on track to have its busiest year ever.

The best part of all this? I'm not there!

This year, I chose not to travel during the busy holiday season. Since I open the zendo on Monday nights, I would have to return on Sunday or Monday, and based on my hunch that the travel conditions were going to be what the AJC reported above, the option of staying at home sounded much more attractive.

Recent search engine hits:

1. At 2:43 yesterday afternoon, someone on AOL in the Central Time Zone Googled "Greg at Bed Bath and Beyond in Tallahassee," and got referred to this blog, although I'll be damned if I can't find the link that lead him here.

2. At 8:59 this morning, I got another Michael Creighton hit! Someone on Comcast in Eastern Standard Time did an MSN search for "Michael Creighton and environmentalism" and got referred to my November 18 entry, although the link led the person to this front page. I hope the person found the right entry, and didn't get stuck at yesterday's entry about the other Michael Creighton searches. But anyway, Michael Creighton, Michael Creighton, Michael Creighton!

However, none of this matters because . . . the football pool has begun! Yes, last night marked the start of the 19th annual family football pool. The number of participants is rather small (only 6 this year, although there's been 10 or more in years past), and at $25 per head, the pool is only $150, but it's not the money that counts - it's the pride. The bragging rights. I consider myself THE college football fan in the family, yet I lost something like the first 15 pools. In 2001 and -2, I finally won (and two in a row), but choked the next year (damn you Clemson!!!!). But this year it looks like I have a good shot (click on the graph to make it readable):

It looks like everyone saw Bowling Green's win over Memphis coming, so we're all tied with one win each. But tonight, with a Marshall victory over Cincinnati, I can get one game ahead of my Brother-in-Law, my Mother and Witch Doctor Jim, and with a UCLA blow-out of Wyoming, I can leave the Witch Doctor behind in a cloud of dust.

Top Ten Most Polite Ways to Say Your Zipper Is Down.........
by David Letterman

10. The cucumber has left the salad.

9. Quasimodo needs to go back in the tower and tend to his bells.

8. You need to bring your tray table to the upright and locked position.

7. Paging Mr. Johnson... Paging Mr. Johnson..

6. Elvis is leaving the building.

5. The Buick is not all the way in the garage.

4. Our next guest is someone who needs no introduction.

3. You've got a security breach at Los Pantalones.

2. Men may be From Mars.....but I can see something that rhymes with Venus.

And the #1 way to tell someone his zipper is unzipped.....

1. I always knew you were crazy, but now I can see your nuts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

blog notes

using the site meter, that little icon over to the right, i can get a pretty good idea of not only how many people visit this blog, but who and also why. for example, i get an average of 19 hits a day, a very modest number, but probably appropriate for the content. based on the domain names of the hits, i can sometimes figure out who's dropping by - for example, i can see when my mother logs on, based on her office's business domain. i can also see that someone from mactec, my former employer, has been checking out the blog once a day. probably one of my old co-workers wondering what it's like to have a real job.

but what's most interesting to me is to see why people visit based on search engine results. for example, at 7:24 this morning, someone in the midwest (central time zone) performed an internet search for "+power +windows 'won't roll up,'" and got referred to this blog by a reference to this blog didn't come up until page 4 of the search results, but the seeker of automotive wisdom got directed to my october 23 blog entry, wherein i locked my keys and cell phone in my running car in the morning, then couldn't get the power windows to roll up in the afternoon. i'm not sure if that's what the seeker was looking for, but i hope he or she was at least entertained by my misfortunes.

(someone also got referred here on december 18 by searching
google for buick century "break in" "locked out" keys.)

but as interesting as that might or might not be, at 7:13 this morning, someone on eastern europe time (russian federation zone 1) performed a
yahoo search for "email contact for shokai." i'll let you know if i hear anything from my russian friend, but i was only the 33rd "shokai" to come up in his search results - apparently, there's a lot of us shokai's out there. for those wondering, the number one shokai is nobuyuki shokai of the japanese delegation to the asia-pacific economic cooperation agricultural technical cooperation working group.

i've gotten several hits by people searching for michael creighton's environmental lectures - most recently, one
yesterday morning, one december 17 (for "michael creighton state of fear"), and one december 18th. i should use the words "michael creighton" more often (hey! i just did!) and see if it gets me more hits.

but my favorite category of search engine hits, though, are those that are referred here based on the blog title ("water dissolves water"). december 16, someone got sent here by an
msn search for "how much air dissolves in water?" on december 17, someone came here after asking jeeves "what dissolves in water?" december 18 got me a hit from someone's soap dissolves the fastest in water search on yahoo (i was the number one result!).

i've gotten a couple of other hits from searches about the movie "
i heart huckabees," an aol'er who searched for the keywords "rollover & die" (but in typical aol style, misspelled "die" as "ie"), one for the reverend soyu matsuoka roshi, and one for sean o'flanders, who, as you may recall, was the third place finisher for the "man of the year" awards.

which reminds me, there are some early entries for this year's man of the year competition, from right here in the usa. first, we have brian jenkins of new port ritchie, florida:

also, will cross of laramie, wyoming:

we will keep you informed as additional contestants appear.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia Dec 22, 2004 — A government order banning a pop song about a Buddhist monk falling in love will unlikely affect its sales, a production manager said Tuesday.

Officials recently pulled the plug on radio and television broadcasts of "Wrongly Quitting Monkhood for Love," saying it tarnishes the reputation of Cambodian Buddhism.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said in a statement last week that the song's content "affects the dignity of other monks who are striving to sacrifice their physical and mental strength to devote themselves to Buddhist teaching."

The song was released as a video CD, which shows scenes of the monk hugging and kissing the girl while bathing in a pond near a pagoda.

Iep Chimeng, manager of a studio that produced the video CDs, said the ban would have little impact on the sale of the 4,000 copies already out in the market.

He said the aim of the video was not to degrade Buddhism in Cambodia but to educate monks who might not yet have rid themselves of sexual desire.

"He was obsessed with her beauty, and, against advice from older monks, he left the monkhood for her. But when she abandoned him later, he realized that he was wrong and that he's the one who was hurt," Iep Chimeng said, adding that the man returns to the monkhood.

Some 90 percent of Cambodia's 13 million people adhere to Buddhism. About 60,000 monks live at more than 4,000 temples across the country.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


another day, another . . . well, better make it a half dollar, because i only worked half a day today (but i still get the full dollar - see? isn't personal time great?).

fitting to only work a half day because today is the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year. you wouldn't want to overdo it and work a full eight-hour day and miss it now, would you?

with my free afternoon, i went to my favorite local cuban restaurant (salsa, off howell mill road) with my friend k., and then afterwards we went and saw the movie "
what the bleep do we know?." really, that's the name of a movie.

sometimes, i wonder why i can't just go to a normal movie like everyone else . . .

also, for those of you keeping score at home, of the things to do on my "list of 10 things to do" for this holiday season, i've only accomplished one - checking on the unsellable condo in vinings. and since i discovered there that the toilet needed fixing, i had to add a task to the list, so it was kind of a zero-sum gain - i still have ten things to do on my list, even though i completed one.

good thing the day wasn't any longer.

Monday, December 20, 2004


the early morning temperature in new york city this morning - 13 degrees F.

the early morning temperature in atlanta - 16 degrees F.

875 miles south of new york city, and it's only 3 degrees warmer here! that's not right! we deserve warmer!

the heat ran all night without shutting off once, and although i had the thermostat set at 75, it could only warm the house up to 69 degrees.

this should be the worst of it, however - it hasn't been this cold in atlanta in almost two years, and the forecast is for gradual warming through out the week.

i went to work for a half-day this morning and stopped at the unsellable condo in vinings on the way home to make sure the cold weather hadn't gotten to the plumbing. everything looked all right, except the toilet in the master bath, which looks like it developed a leaky seal (probably from age, not from the cold). I'll have to add fixing it to my list of chores.

tonight, i open the zen center and will lead a talk on ignorance, along the lines of my posts here from last week.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

auger rig

"auger rig" are the first words out of my mouth most mornings. this is not as odd as it might seem. first of all, i don't glibly pronounce "auger rig" as three simple syllables, but rather draw it out, "awwwwwwwwwwwwwww-grrrrrrrrrrrrr riiiiiiiig." it's the early-morning sound i make when i wake up and arch my back and stretch, and the sounds come out in a burst of morning halitosis that i realized only this week could actually be construed as the words "auger rig."

which is all to say that i've been sleeping in late the last couple of mornings. i can afford to. nothing else to do.

ever since last memorial day weekend, i've been afraid of long stretches of unstructured time. the trouble with long stretches of unstructured time is that without having to go to work, take a trip, or meet and entertain friends, i tend to go into a sort of catatosis, sleeping late and spending hours doing nothing, being surprised that it's already gotten dark outside and i haven't even finished the pot of coffee that i brewed in the "morning" (which actually occurred in mid-afternoon), realizing that night that i've squandered a precious day of my life and vowing to be more productive the next day, only to wake up late again the following morning and do the whole thing over again.

but now i'm facing a test - over two weeks of nothing in particular that i'm required to do. as of today, i have enough vacation time accrued that i don't have to go to work again for the rest of the year. i could carry the vacation time over into next year, but i've managed to sort of catch up on every deadline i had hanging over me, and the business world is starting to slow down as more and more clients are heading out on vacations of their own. so it's up to me - go to work and try to act busy, or stay at home. i've decided to split the difference and work part time between now and year's end.

so, after thai night, all i had scheduled for the weekend was saturday's karate class at noon, but having slept late that morning and sipping coffee until quarter to twelve, i realized i wasn't going to make it to class, so i just let it slide. and managed not to leave the house all day.

today, the high point of the day, at least ambition-wise, was going food shopping. at least i was out of the house for a while.

tomorrow, i will go to the office in the morning (if nothing else, i have to complete a timesheet if i want to get paid - and i do - and speaking of money, as long as i'm there, i ought to catch up on expense reports). that evening, i have to open the zen center. but i'm free to do what i want with that afternoon and early evening.

i've written myself up a little list of chores to do, from buying more RAM for my computer to projects for the house. it will be interesting to see how much i actually get done.

As I was walking up the stairs,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
I wish that he would go away.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Thai Night

Last night was Thai Night. Thai Night 2004. Put on by the Thai Association of Georgia, Thai Night 2004 was held in the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot near Underground Atlanta.

My friend Arthur called me during the week to let me know about this, and to see if I wanted to go check it out with him. We weren't really sure what to expect, except that it was to feature, naturally, Thai food and also, reportedly, Thai dancing.

It turned out to be a very family-oriented event. The Thai Association, like a lot of other civic groups, exists to . . . well, I actually have no idea why it exists. Much of the speaking on the stage was in Thai, with some occasional English. But no matter, it was all very respectable, and most people were dressed up in jacket and tie or in gowns. Except, of course, Arthur and I, who showed up in jeans and leather jackets (and in my case, a black t-shirt).

But it was a lot of fun. It was basically a big banquet for the Atlanta Thai community. The food was great, and there was a lot of it, from traditional Thai chicken curry to good old American prime rib. When we first arrived, there was a lot of karaoke-style singing, in Thai, to what I imagine were Thai pop songs, but as the night went on, the dancing began, with the dancers all decked out in exotic Thai outfits. The dancers, mostly all women, ranged from adult professionals to the children of the Wat Buddha Bucha's Thai Sunday School.

The high point of the evening, at least for me, was when a little girl, probably about eight, came into the audience with all of the other little dancers in her class, and asked me to come on stage to dance with her. Of course, I initially resisted, but of course, Arthur urged me on, and so I found myself, one of the few non-Thais in attendance, in front of the stage trying to dance Thai style, all flexed fingers and elbow rotations, dancing with a little Thai girl in native costume.

And she was so kind and considerate of me. When I looked more perplexed that usual, she would show me what to do; when other adults danced between us, she made sure she stuck with me. I was charmed. Afterwards, we bowed to each other, and I bowed to her mother, who was never far from the stage, and complimented her on what a well mannered daughter she had raised.

Arthur had just come back from Thailand, and is planning to go back there soon. Based on the hospitality and the joy in the people I saw there last night, I could understand his enthusiasm.

Friday, December 17, 2004

"facts are stubborn things;

and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." - john adams

america's 15-year-olds performed below the international average in math and problem solving, according to test results released by the program for international student assessment (pisa). given in the spring of 2003, the pisa test assesses the abilities of 15-year-old students from 41 countries to apply learning to problems with a real-world context. twenty-three other countries outperformed the u.s. in math and 25 outperformed us in problem solving.

students who had access to multiple computers at home or who used pcs several times a week at school experienced a significant falloff in their math and reading performance, according to a recent german study. the study consisted of 175,000 15-year-olds in 31 countries.

meanwhile, major league baseball continues its pitchers' merry-go-round. the new york yankees are on the verge of acquiring 41-year-old randy johnson from the arizona diamondbacks. the red sox were hoping to respond with a bold move of their own by acquiring oakland's tim hudson.

but instead, hudson, a georgia native, is headed here to atlanta in exchange for two young pitchers and outfielder charles thomas. plus, the braves were able to move john smoltz out of the bullpen and back into the starting rotation by acquiring closer dan kolb from the brewers. so, with pedro martinez in new york with the mets, who also have former brave tom glavine in their starting rotation, it looks like the braves will be using hudson and smoltz to face martinez and glavine next summer during the regular-season braves-mets games.

meanwhile, the sox will be facing johnson in pinstripes over in the american league.

i'm not making any playoff predictions at this time, though . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Following up on some recent posts,

it should be noted that after helping the boston red sox win their first title in 86 years, pedro martínez turned down a $40.5 million, three-year offer from the sox and instead signed a $53 million, four-year contract with the new york mets. martínez was 117-37 in seven years with boston.

also, a 62-year-old cobb county man was bitten by a rabid coyote sunday while walking in sope creek park near paper mill road with his dog. the man was able to grab the animal by the neck and hold it until an animal control officer arrived in response to a 911 cellphone call. the victim had already started a series of post-exposure rabies shots. signs will be posted in the park, which is part of chattahoochee river national recreation area.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Open Letter

dear president bush,

thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding god's law. i have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. as you said "in the eyes of god marriage is based between a man and a woman." i try to share that knowledge with as many people as i can. when someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, i simply remind them that leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... end of debate.

i do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of god's laws and how to follow them.

1. leviticus 25:44 states that i may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. a friend of mine claims that this applies to mexicans, but not canadians. can you clarify? why can't I own canadians?

2. i would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in exodus 21:7. in this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. i know that i am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - lev.15:19-24. the problem is how do i tell? i have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. when i burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, i know it creates a pleasing odor for the lord - lev.1:9. the problem is my neighbors. they claim the odor is not pleasing to them. should i smite them?

5. i have a neighbor who insists on working on the sabbath. exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. am i morally obligated to kill him myself, or should i ask the police to do it?

6. a friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. i don't agree. can you settle this? are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. lev.21:20 states that i may not approach the altar of god if i have a defect in my sight. i have to admit that i wear reading glasses. does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by lev.19:27. how should they die?

9. i know from lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may i still play football if i wear gloves?

10. my uncle has a farm. he violates lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). he also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? lev.24:10-16. couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (lev. 20:14)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ignorance II

There was another meeting tonight of the Collier Hills Civic Association, this time with a Christmas party. The meeting covered the same news as last time - roadwork on Northside Drive, sidewalks on Collier Road, expansion at Piedmont Hospital and so on. The meeting was in a neighbor's house - in fact, the same house in front of which I locked my car keys inside of my Jeep last October. For tonight's party, she had cooked a fabulous dinner and afterwards my neighbors and I sat around eating, talking, socializing and scheming.

I've been thinking more about ignorance today, though. Yesterday, the difference between mundane ignorance - lack of knowledge or education - and Buddhist ignorance - lack of wisdom - was established. According to Buddha, ignorance means to mistake the true for the false and the false for the true. Thus, ignorance includes not only the absence of wisdom but also the presence of delusion. In the standard explanation of these terms, the Buddha said ignorance consists in being ignorant of cause and effect and ignorant of the way things are.

Hui-ching says, "Deluded people cling to the existance of the Five Aggregates and the Eighteen Elements and obstruct their own nature and don't see its light. This is what is meant by 'ignorance.'"

Deva says, "The deluded mind grasps appearances and clings to them without let up. This is called 'ignorance.' To understand its source is to bring it to an end."

Monday, December 13, 2004


The theme of the teaching at this Zen Center this month is ignorance. Tonight, we discussed what we thought ignorance was. The dictionary defines "ignorance" as "the state or fact of being ignorant." Ignorant is "a: destitute of knowledge or education (an ignorant society), also: lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified (parents ignorant of modern mathematics); b: resulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence (ignorant errors)" (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).

In Zen, we are not so concerned with knowledge, education and comrehension as we are with wisdom. The absence of wisdom, then, needs to be distinguished from the mere absence of knowledge. The Sanskrit word for ignorance is "avidya." Avidya has been defined as:

Avidya - Skt., lit., "ignorance, nescience." As a Vedantic term, avidya refers to both individual and cosmic ignorance. Individual ignorance is the inability to distinguish between the transient and the intransient, between the real and the unreal; cosmic ignorance is maya. Its effect is the same as that of ajñana (Pali, avijja), which is delusion, that is, noncognizance of the four noble truths, the three precious ones (triratna), and the law of karma. Avidya is the first part in the nexus of conditionality, which leads to entanglement in the world of samsara as well as to the three cankers. It is one of the passions (klesha) and the last of the ten fetters.

Avidya is considered to be the root of everything unwholesome in the world and is defined as ignorance of the suffering-ridden character of existence. It is that state of mind that does not correspond to reality, that holds illusory phenomena for reality, and brings forth suffering. Ignorance occasions craving (trishna) and is thereby the essential factor binding beings to the cycle of rebirth. According to the Mahayana view, avidya with regard to the emptiness of appearances means that a person who is not enlightened will take the phenomenal world to be the only reality and thus conceal from him- or herself the essential truth.

- A Glossary of Buddhist Terminology
Adapted from The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen

Ignorance is the first link in the 12-link chain of Dependent Arising (pratityasamutpada). Ignorance gives rise to dispositions, which gives rise to consciousness, and so on to old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair. Thus arises the entire mass of suffering - all out of ignorance.

"Ignorance is like a black hole that sucks everything into it, even illumination. Thus we can't see it, at least not directly.

One of the characteristics of ignorance, then, is that we're ignorant of our ignorance. This puts a pernicious spin on our predicament.

There are two kinds of ignorance: blindness and self-deception. Blindness is ignorance of the basic realities of existance: impermanence, duhkha, and selflessness (Buddha called these the "three marks of existence.") Self-deception is our belief that we can know intellectually what things are. "Oh! That's water," we say. "Hydrogen and oxygen." And then we dismiss the actual experience of this moment. (But if we want to
know what water is, just take a drink, or go for a walk in the rain, or take a swim.)

In short, we're simply confused about this moment. As Huang Po said, in our ignorance we reject actual experience in favor of what we think. Thus we posit a self in our thought, and we see permanence where there isn't any.

If instead we would attend to this moment, we would see that nothing actually arises, persists, or dies as a separate entity. This is what we truly can
know - but we ignore it and suffer greatly as a result.

This moment is complete unto itself. There's nothing lacking in this moment. If we would actually
see this moment for what it is, we would see all of space and time as nothing other than here and now.

In ignoring
this - our actual experience - the mind no longer rests quietly in Wholeness, but begins to lean. The Buddha called this "disposition of mind," or intention. This forms the second link on the chain. Any actions that come out of such a mind are willed."

- Steve Hagen

Here's the good news, however - from the utter falling away and ceasing of ignorance, there is ceasing of dispositions. From the ceasing of dispositions, there is ceasing of consciousness, and so on to the cessation of old age and death, grief, lamentation, suffering, dejection and despair, the entire mass of suffering.

On a whole 'nother note . . .

I thought the following cartoon from Sunday's New York Times perfectly captured the whole on-line dating experience.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Important Notice

To: The Citizens of the United States of America
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2004

In light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all States, Commonwealths,and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy. Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1) You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will henceforth be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour,' skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise". You will learn that the suffix "burgh" is pronounced "burra'" e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as "Pittsberg'" if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed." There will be no more "bleeps" in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language so frequently.

2) There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter "u" and the elimination of "-ize".

3) You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as "Devonshire" in England. The name of the county is Devon. If you persist in calling it "Devonshire" then all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire and Louisianashire!

4) Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.

5) You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen," but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

6) You should stop playing American "football." There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football," but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full Kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US Rugby sevens side by 2010. You should stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the "World Series'" for a game which is hardly played outside of America (and even the few countries where it is played are not allowed to compete). Since only 2.15% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girl's game called "rounders," which is baseball without fancy team strip, oversized gloves, collector cards or hot dogs.

7) You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. In fact, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

8 ) July 4th will no longer be a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".

9) All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you European cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts (no longer called traffic circles, by the way). You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

10) You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian, though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

11) As a sign of penance, 5 grams of sea salt per cup will be added to all tea made within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this quantity to be doubled for tea made within the city of Boston itself.

12) The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling "beer" is not actually beer at all. It is lager. From November 1st, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager". The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine." This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13) From November 10th, the UK will harmonise petrol (or "gasoline" as you will be permitted to continue calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6 per US gallon - get used to it).

14) You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists demonstrates clearly that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

15) You will be required to tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

16) Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation,

Peter Moynihan (Aged 9)
Minster, Sheppey Kent, UK